VOYAGE HOME

4

 Callum woke in relative darkness, lying in the haversack, swaying slightly not knowing at first where he was. He looked around with just his eyes and then he remembered and sat up, feeling an aching, not only in his head, but in his chest. He slowly rolled his left arm around and looked down, with the limited light in his dark surroundings, seeing the now different colored scar that he had, broad and long and somewhat shiny. He lifted his left arm saw the same type of scar running down the length of his muscle, flexing his arm a bit, testing it, it was tight but he could use it. He had been covered by some old rather smelly blanket, tossing it aside, he swung a leg and touched the deck with his foot then worked himself out of the haversack, standing up. He stretched his back a bit, rolling it around, not used to sleeping like this, and his head seemed a little foggy, that foul taste in his mouth, remembering the small bottle Crawford had him drink from last night. Callum shook his head and saw his boots and reached for them.

 “Morning, sir.” Carson said and Callum looked up as he pulled on a boot, “Feeling alright, sir?”

 “A little foggy this morning, but alright.” Callum answered and stamped his foot on the deck.

 “Would you care for breakfast, sir?”

 “No, just some coffee, if you please.”

 “Very good, sir. I’ll be just a moment.” Carson said and stepped out, closing the door. Callum looked around as he grabbed his other boot and pulled it on, stamping it as well.

 “There is no accursed window in this cabin.” Callum said out loud to himself as Carson came in with coffee. Callum was reaching for his shirt and slipping it over his head.

 “Were you saying something, sir?”

 “Yes, I was remarking that there is no light in here, no window or port.”

 “Yes, sir, it does seem a bit dark in here, doesn’t it, sir?”

 “Hmmm, it’s too bad Camden isn’t one of the crew of the sloop, I might set him to task on it.” Callum smiled briefly as he tucked in his shirt and reached for his vest, “What time do you think it is, Carson?”

 “Two bells, sir, in the forenoon watch.”

 “What? I slept all that long? Dear God.”

 “Mr. Collingwood has the deck, sir, everything is seeming to be in order. The crew is all working and the Sergeant has some of his lads lending a hand as well.” Carson smiled.

 “Well, perhaps we could go into town then and pick up whatever else we need before I am to go aboard Dover to meet the other Captains.” Callum said as he picked up his coffee and pulled from it.

 “If you wish, sir.” Carson beamed, “The crew will be happy to hear about that.”

 “Missing their grog, are they?”

 “They have made some mention of it, sir. But, they all went silent over it once they found out that you had personally paid for what we have so far aboard. They seemed to fall into a bit of shame over it.”

 “I see.” Callum said as he buttoned up his vest, “I think it can slip out that it is merely out of appreciation for their excellent work and their volunteering.” Callum flashed his eyes as he picked up his coffee again and pulled long from it. He set the cup down, “My head seems to be clearing of its fog. Thank you, Carson.”

 “You’re welcome,sir.”

 “I’ll see Lt. Collingwood on deck while you finish doing whatever you need to do and then we can set out on our little excursion.”

 “As you say, sir.” Carson said and stepped out of the way as Callum left the cabin and went up on deck, coming through the narrow doorway, closing it behind him. He looked about and saw the hands all working, all of them seeing him, tipping their hands to him, he nodded once or smiled toward them in answer. He saw Collingwood coming toward him with a look of concern on his face. Callum countered it with a brief smile in his direction.

 “It would seem, Mr. Collingwood, that we should be ready for sailing long before I had thought. I am very pleased with it all.” Callum said and then looked aloft at the Main Mast, he saw the rigging had been reset and the new sets of Billie’s had been placed to hoist and lower the canvas.

 “Thank you, sir.” Collingwood answered, “The men seem to be very happy with the progress as well. Sgt. McGuffin has offered up most of his men for additional hands and I accepted and have some of the hands leading and teaching them as to what to do.”

 “Very good. The extra hands might come in handy if this turns bad for us.” Callum said, “Where is Mr.Talon?”

 “He is in the hold, sir. He is clearing out the bilge pump. He notified me this morning that there was slight problem with it not working correctly. He reported that it could be repaired in short order.”

 “I see. Carson and I are going into town to pick up a few other things. I am waiting for a rather large box to be delivered. Have it stored below carefully when it arrives. Also, see the Dock Master, I want extra grape shot and powder loaded, and if there another rail gun or two that is not in use, have them consigned to us have them brought aboard as well, we’ll store them here on deck. I have a lunch meeting aboard Dover with the other Captains, once I return, you and Mr. Talon will join me in my cabin and we can discuss some rather interesting details I discovered yesterday.”

 “Very good, sir.”Collingwood said, “I don’t mean to be too forward, sir, but are you alright this morning after Dr. Crawford’s visit of last evening?”

 “Yes, thank you for asking. My head is much clearer now from his potions.” Callum said and flashed his eyes, “Oh, and one more thing, do we have a set of colors and signaling flags?”

 “Yes, sir. They are in the port storage locker, sir.”

 “Excellent.” Callum smiled, “Well, perhaps we will make a good showing of it then.”

 “I do believe we will in that, sir.” Collingwood said with a smile. Callum nodded and saw Carson coming toward them.

 “I have finished everything below, sir.” Carson said with a nod.

 “Very good, then let’s be on our way then. The ship is yours, Mr. Collingwood.”

 “Aye, sir.” Collingwood tipped his hand and stepped out of the way.

 

 “The scars that you have, Papa,” Henry said softly as he put a hand on the old man’s, making him look into Henry’s eyes, “I remember that one day out in the grass, I,…”

 “What do you remember, Henry? I know you and I have never really spoken of it.” The old man said. Henry nodded slowly.

 “Dustin and I did a few times, but not in detail. I remember seeing them a few times but only in glimpses when you were either bathing or when we were working in the barn.” Henry looked at his father, “Do they give you distress?”

 “Some of them do, yes. The one that was worked on by Dr. Crawford that I spoke of, the one wound you saw me receive out there on the knoll, that one is the one that causes most of my discomfort as it was very deep.”

 “Andrew and I saw them, Father. We, I, had no idea about them at all until he showed us.” Dustin said.

 “Indeed, it was impressive.” Andrew said at the end of the table, Henry shifted his eyes to the young man, meeting his gaze, Andrew finally looked down at his notebook.

 “As I had said the other day,” The old man looked up at Dustin, who stood beside him, “there are others.”

 “Yes, but you also said that Mrs. Ross might faint if she caught you showing us those. She is not here.” Dustin gave the old man a smile of mischief.

 “I did, didn’t I?” The old man smiled, “But, I will not embarrass myself in lowering my pants.” The old man winked up at him, and Dustin chuckled, “Suffice it to say, you will just have to take my word for it.”

 “As I said, I remember that day, out there, you lying in the grass.” Henry said, reliving the memory, “It shocked me, seeing all of the blood coming from you, you not being able to get up, and that man, lying there at your feet, the sword sticking through him. It was his eyes that I remember most though.”

 “Colonel Holt.” The old man said, looking at his son, who looked almost blank in his expression. Henry looked at his father.

 “I remember watching you fighting him through the windows of the kitchen right here. Martha was screaming and making me jump each time she did. I remember hearing it, the clanging of the steel, the sound of the blades and the flashing of them in the sunlight. You were moving so fast and so was he. I was scared to death, I remember that very well, and I also thought over the next few days after you left that that was what you were going to go and do again, something like I had seen that day, it scared me even more.” Henry said in a soft voice. Robert was wide eyed listening to his father and his descriptions and shifted his eyes back and forth between his father and his grandfather.

 “I had no idea.” The old man, “I suppose, I should have talked to you more about it over time, but it was difficult for me, not like it is now. It seems to ease me a bit in recounting what happened all those years ago.”

 “I think I understand, Papa.” Henry smiled and pat the old man’s hand.

 “I appreciate your understanding, Henry.”

 “What happened?” Robert asked, looking at his grandfather.

 “What do you mean?” The old man asked.

 “The whole thing, you were fighting with swords, a dead man at your feet, Father seeing his eyes, and,…?” Robert asked as he was looking back and forth between them.

 “Yes, it was a bit intense around here a few times actually.”

 “Indeed, something happened one night over at Harbroughs, I remember only part of it, after your return, Papa.” Henry said.

 “Yes, you speak of those men that tried to rob the house, thinking it was the Cross.” The old man said, looking at Henry, who nodded, “But, it was really nothing.”

 “You and Dustin, setting out like you did in the dark, I remember that, swords and pistols in hand.”

 “What?” Robert asked with wide eyes.

 “I never heard this either.” Dustin said with equal surprise.

 “I don’t remember much of it, only,…I remember hearing the shots and then the screams in the distance and in the dark, I was barely awake standing there with Martha as we waited here at the back door.” Henry said.

 “Yes.” The old man said, “Most unfortunate that it happened.”

 “Harbroughs was robbed?” Robert asked.

 “Yes, but we can speak of it at another time.” The old man smiled and gave Henry a soft wink.

 “I suppose we can.” Henry said returning the smile, knowing what his father meant.

 “I think I will go and rest for a bit.” The old man said, “It’s been a rather long day already so far.”

 “Yes, and I have to attend to the horses myself.”

 “Are you joining us for supper, Father?” Dustin asked.

 “Is that an invitation?” Henry asked as he got up from the table.

 “I know it would be alright with Grandfather.” Dustin smiled.

 “Yes, Henry, please do join us this evening.” The old man said as he stood up, “Robert, you as well. I’m sure your brother is making more than enough for all of us.”

 “I would like that, Grandfather, thank you.” Robert said.

 “Good. Henry?”

 “I would be happy to join you as well, Papa.”

 “Excellent.” The old man said as he went and stood behind Andrew near the doorway of the parlor, “I will see you all in a bit then.” He smiled and walked out of the kitchen, all eyes on him until he was out of sight.

 “He never ceases to amaze me.” Dustin said above a whisper. Henry put a hand on his son’s shoulder for a moment and then went out the door, the dog following him out into the light rain that was now falling.

 

           //////             //////            //////            //////            //////

 

 The longboat pulled alongside Dover, the boat crew had shipped oars, lines had been grabbed to stop the longboat and it was steadied as Callum rose up from the bench seat and reached for the crawl steps up the side to go up through the gunwale. The Boson’s pipe sang out, Captain coming aboard, as Callum came up and through the rail. Tomlin was there, the other officers behind him, the crew lined up in rows and gathered, standing still and rigid watching.

 “Captain Tomlin, permission to come aboard, sir.” Callum tipped his hand to his hat toward him.

 “Permission granted, sir. You are most welcomed into the ship.”

 “Thank you.” Callum nodded toward him.

 “May I present my officers?” Tomlin said, half stepping out of the way for Callum and waved a hand toward the line that was behind him.

 “Gentlemen, I am glad to be in your company.”

 “Thank you, sir.” They all said in reply.

 “Am I early, Captain?” Callum asked.

 “Our other guests have not arrived quite yet, Captain, but you are not early, sir.”

 “Thank you, Captain Tomlin.” Callum smiled, secretly loving the formalities they were involved in. It made Callum swell with pride seeing his friend like this, and having a command of his own as he was very deserving of it in Callum’s opinion.

 “Would you be so kind as to join me for lunch in the Great Cabin?”

 “It would be an honor to join you, Captain Tomlin. Thank you for your gracious invitation.” Callum said and followed Tomlin to the Great Cabin, and was shown a seat at the large table there in the center of the cabin. Callum played it out very well for Tomlin, taking a seat and getting comfortable at the table, taking a seat at the middle, not at the head, the place of honor for Tomlin to sit at. They looked at one another as the Boson’s pipe sang out again, Captain coming aboard.

 “If you will excuse me, sir, it would seem that another of our guests has arrived.”

 “Of course, Captain.” Callum smiled and bowed his head slightly. Tomlin took his hat and walked out the door. Callum waited for a couple of minutes and then the door reopened, Tomlin, standing aside, waving in with a single hand, Stewart and Renner, Callum rose to his feet for them.

 “Callum, it is a pleasure to see you again, and in uniform this time.” Stewart said bowing his head slightly.

 “Captain Stewart, my pleasure to be sure, sir.” Callum smiled and looked over at Captain Renner, “Captain Renner, an equal pleasure, sir. I trust you had a good nights’ sleep?” Callum asked, Renner nodded once and grunted toward Callum, a look of slight frustration on his face, not being able to say what he would like with the proprieties of such a meeting that he was now involved in.

 “Gentlemen, please make yourselves to be comfortable.” Tomlin said as he went to the head of the table. Callum sat down where he had been, Renner was across the way from him, Stewart at the end of the table to Callum’s left. Shem, Carson’s assistant and now steward to Tomlin, came into the cabin, setting a tray on the table near its center, setting out a platter of some kind of small pastries, and nodded toward Tomlin and took the tray with him. He returned a minute later, the tray contained a large pitcher along with fine glasses. He set it out and looked at Tomlin, who nodded to him, Shem poured from the pitcher into all glasses and then set them out, the guests served first, Stewart, Renner, Callum, and then Tomlin. Callum knew it was the wine reserve of Captain Powers, as there had been quite a stock of it built up over the years kept below in ships stores. Callum wondered if he could relieve Tomlin of a couple of bottles of it when he left to go back to the sloop. He smiled to himself over the thought.

 Shem took the tray and left the cabin only to return a couple of minutes later with their lunch on it. He set it out in front of each of the guests first and then served Tomlin. Tomlin nodded to him, Shem bowed slightly and looked at Callum for a moment, they made eye contact briefly, Callum gave him a quick wink and Shem left the cabin.

 “Callum, as I understand it from our brief conversation yesterday, you have devised a strategy in all of this?”

 “I believe I have, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, looking over at the end of the table.

 “A strategy that will ensure success, no doubt?” Renner said with a bit of disdain in his voice.

 “Of course, Captain Renner.” Callum said, sitting back from his lunch and picked up his wine, taking a sip of it, “I for one have many things to return home for. It would be a shame to not have my plan succeed.”

 “Rather presumptuous, don’t you think, Callum?”

 “I have no doubt that there may possibly be unforeseen issues that may arise as with any plan going into battle, Captain Renner, but I feel that it is better to have a plan than to not, would you not agree?”

 “You treat this as you would a battle then?”

 “Of course. How would you see it, Captain Renner?” Callum asked.

 “I see it as being entirely different, Captain Callum, simply as a manhunt, as it should be.”

 “That has been tried before, Captain, with no success.”

 “So has the baiting maneuver with a sloop. The result was a dead Captain and a dead crew.” Renner glared at Callum.

 “I do not argue that, sir, I agree with you on that point completely, as it was I that came up with that plan in the very beginning during a meeting at the Admiralty. The difference now is that my original plan will be implemented correctly, and add to that fact, we are ready for this Frenchman. I assure you, sir, I will see this done.” Callum said staring directly at Renner, clearly making him uncomfortable with his words and his stare.

 “What is your plan, Callum?” Stewart asked. Callum did not take his eyes off Renner as he reached into his tunic and pulled out the folded chart he had been working on aboard the sloop. He slowly unfolded it and lay it on the table. All eyes shifted to it, Stewart rose up from his chair, clearly interested, but Renner did not move at all. Tomlin got up from his chair and came over next to Callum as Callum had also risen now.

 “You will note that there are several marks I have made on this chart, along with lines of our course to be made out into the North Sea as well as into The Channel. The marks indicated here, here, here,” Callum said as he pointed to the hash marks made by his own hand, “indicate positions of the attacked merchants and the murdered crews. Remember gentlemen, he attacks when there is no moon, slipping in under the cover of darkness. My plan is to follow the course laid out on this chart, the sloop sailing from the north to the south to draw him out. Each of your ships will be positioned in a line, close by, but far enough away to not be seen. Note the positions, here, here, and here.” Callum pointed along the course, “As the sloop sails from one ships position to the next, that first ship will sail south and take up a position beyond the third support ship and then the next ship reached will sail on down beyond and so on, jumping over each other as it were until he shows himself. Once he does, all ships will converge on him and we will have him between all of us.”

 “How do you propose to let each of the ships to know that he has shown himself? At this distance relative to each other, signaling flags will be of no use, and especially in the dark.” Stewart asked.

 “A special crate should be on the dock as we speak and being loaded aboard the sloop. That crate contains signaling rocket flares. Once he begins his attack, they will be fired off. They should be seen for quite a number of miles in the night sky.”

 “Bold,…if it works.” Renner said, “But it may take some time before our ships could reach the sloop depending upon sailing conditions.”

 “I can see that and agree with that assessment as well, Captain Renner.” Stewart said, “And I am also wondering, Callum, if he can see the sloop, what makes you think he won’t see the other ships?”

 “I would ask that there would be lights out on all ships at night until he reveals himself, Captain Stewart. The sloop will maintain full lights while we wait for his approach and attack. We will act like a beacon.”

 “Madness and sheer folly.” Renner said mostly under his breath, sitting back.

 “Captain Renner, can you suggest another possible course of action, besides us scouring every inch of coastline, which has already been done with no result. We know he attacks merchants, and those vessels are much smaller than he, the sloop will be simply irresistible to him, I assure you.”

 “I’ll say it again, folly, plain and simple. You are going to get your crew killed.”

 “Perhaps I should write that letter you suggested yesterday for you to Lord Hood? I can respectfully submit to him that you wish to withdraw you and your vessel, as you seem to think that it is already a lost cause before we even set sail?” Callum asked and felt Tomlin’s hand on his arm, trying to ease him a bit. Renner just glared at him, as Callum had just basically inferred he was a coward.

 “I have one question for you, Callum.” Renner said, Callum cocked his head a bit.

 “Does this plan of yours have the full endorsement from the Admiralty?”

 “It does, Captain Renner. Without that full endorsement, I would not be standing here in front of you today, sir.” Callum said and Renner huffed a bit.

 “I will go with you as well, Callum. There is no need for any letter to be written to the Admiralty.” Renner said.

 “So, if we all understand and are agreed with the plan, might I suggest that we finish this wonderful lunch that Captain Tomlin has so graciously provided us?”

 “I agree.” Stewart said guardedly and went back to his chair and sat down. Tomlin went back to the head of the table as Callum sat back down, Stewart looked at Callum for a moment and then spoke up, “You say that you devised this while at a meeting at the Admiralty, Callum?”

 “That is correct, Captain Stewart.”

 “May I inquire if Lord Hood was present during that meeting?”

 “He was not,” Callum said, “However Lord Fitzwarren was, along with Vice Admiral Parring.”

 “Parring? What was he doing there?” Renner asked as he drank down his wine and reached for the pitcher and refilled his glass, not offering to anyone else, he set the pitcher down, keeping it near him, everyone noticed.

 “Admiral Parring was escorting two gentlemen from the Spanish Embassy with more information about the Frenchman we seek. Do you know Admiral Parring, Captain Renner?”

 “We have met before.” Renner said with the same tone as he had had the entire time in being there. His eyes were on his plate as he spoke.

 “Am I to take it that you have a slighted opinion about Admiral Parring, Captain Renner?”

 “My opinions are my own, Captain Callum, and are not open for further discussion.” Renner said as he picked up his glass and pulled long from it, “An excellent wine, CaptainTomlin.”

 “Thank you, Captain Renner.” Tomlin said, giving him a glance and then bowed his head slightly.

 “If I may, Captain Callum, and I do not wish to be too personal,…” Stewart said, Callum nodded once toward him, “I was wondering about the action at La Rochelle. You seem to be the stuff of legend, sir, as it has been told.”

 “I thank you, Captain Stewart, but I assure you, it was not the stuff of legend. We merely had the weathergauge.”

 “Very modest of you to say that, Captain, but that was not what was reported by those that were witness to it, sir.” Stewart said.

 “What would you like to know, Captain Stewart?” Callum asked as he relented and sat back, pushing his plate away from him.

 “It is said that you engaged six French ships of the line singlehandedly.”

 “I will not deny that, Captain. I would merely add that there was no other choice that could be made. The squadron was bottled up and was under attack.”

 “There was also the Spanish Man of War, Captain Callum.” Tomlin said with a half-smile.

 “Yes, there was that as well, wasn’t there.” Callum said as he looked at his friend, “Thank you for reminding me of that, Captain Tomlin.”

 “So with all of your experience in taking ships of the line, Callum, what do you want to do with this Frenchman when you corner him with your daring plan?” Renner asked with the snide tone was nearly dripping off the tip of his tongue as he drained his glass and poured more from the pitcher.

 “That will depend upon him, Captain Renner.” Callum said flatly as he watched the wine pour into the glass. Renner set the pitcher down and lifted the glass, “The Avion is a ninety gunner as you know and would make a great prize that is true, but, I have a feeling that this Frenchman will fight to the last man.”

 “What makes you say so?” Stewart asked as he looked at Callum.

 “He simply has to, it is part of his madness I would think. Surely he must be seeking favor with Napoleon or at least is acting on orders directly from him. He murders the crews of those ships he attacks but does not take the cargos. That alone makes him a murderer and not a pirate. Who supplies him for these attacks? His port is unknown, or changes at the very least. All of this that he does benefits Napoleon greatly, as he begins to slowly starve us out and bring commerce and our economy to a slow grinding halt.”

 “I begin to see your point, Captain Callum. The Admiralty must have reached this conclusion as well.” Stewart said.

 “As well as Parliament.” Callum said.

 “Yes, I can see that as well. The no moon begins in another two nights, are you ready to sail?” Stewart asked.

 “The sloop should be ready by late today. We sail with the morning tide. Captain Tomlin will follow us out, you and Captain Renner can sail out respectively with tomorrow evenings tide to your designated positions. I will have copies of the charted course brought to your respective ships by the late afternoon of today.”

 “Very good.” Stewart said, bowing his head slightly to Callum, who nodded back once to him. ”Well gentlemen, this has been very informative. Captain Tomlin, thank you so very much for your hospitality, sir.” Stewart said as he got to his feet, “Captain Renner, shall we be on our way?”

 “I suppose so.” Renner said, draining his glass and getting to his feet, he looked at Tomlin, “Thank you for lunch, Captain, it was a pleasure.” Renner said with a nod, then looked at Callum, “Callum, good luck to you.” Renner said with his continued attitude, then picked up his hat and followed Stewart out of the cabin, closing the door behind them. Tomlin went to say something, but Callum held up his hand to stop him, then pointed at the door, Tomlin looked over the table to see what he was pointing at and then saw it, the shadow moving at the bottom of it outside the door in the passageway, Callum watched it for a moment as it shifted a bit.

 “Lunch was most excellent, Captain Tomlin, I thank you very much, and for hosting our meeting as well.” Callum said loudly as he continued watching the bottom of the door.

 “You’re very welcome, sir, I was more than happy to do it.” Tomlin said watching as Callum did, the shadow moved off from the door, as Tomlin stepped close to Callum, “Who do you think it was?” Tomlin asked in a whisper.

 “If I had to bet, I would say Renner.” Callum said in a whisper as well, Tomlin nodded and the Boson’s pipe sang out, Captain disembarking.

 “How did you know?” Tomlin asked.

 “I just had a feeling.” Callum said as he looked at Tomlin, “I don’t trust him.”

 “Nor do I, and especially with the spirits.” Tomlin said and saw Callum smiling wide.

 “I wonder if he drinks that much aboard the Hunter?” Callum asked.

 “I hope not.” Tomlin said and shook his head, “Quintan, I am very concerned about this with him. He may not hold up his end of the plan, and surely it would be complete disaster if he were the one that was nearest when it does come.”

 “I agree, Thomas, and I too am concerned as you know, but we have what we have to work with in this. It will just make me be more guarded.” Callum smiled and put a hand to Tomlin’s shoulder.

 “I have a bad feeling about this.” Tomlin said, staring into his friends blue eyes.

 “Come now, it will be alright, Thomas.” Callum said and pat his shoulder. He turned and picked up his hat, “I must return to the sloop and see if that special delivery has arrived yet.”

 “Quintan,…” Tomlin said making Callum look back at him, “I may not get the opportunity to say this again,…” Tomlin said as they looked at each other.

 “What is it, Thomas?” Callum could see the look on Tomlin’s face as Callum squared off to him.

 “I,…wanted to say,…Quintan, I value our friendship greatly. You have no idea just how much you really mean to me.” Tomlin said as he put his hands on Callum’s upper arms, “Please, do not let this be the last time that we meet.” Tomlin said softly. Callum gave him a brief smile.

 “I will do my very best, Thomas, to make certain that we will meet again. I made Dustin a promise to return to him as well, a promise that I fully intend to keep, no matter how long it takes.” Callum said. Tomlin was being to well a bit in his eyes. He couldn’t help it any longer and wrapped his arms about Callum’s shoulders, pulling him in with a tight hug. Callum hugged him back tightly, and then pulled back, giving Tomlin a nod and then walked to the door of the cabin and went out, leaving Tomlin alone to stare after him. 

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 “Mr. Collingwood, it would seem that all is near ready.”

 “Indeed, sir.” Collingwood said as he tipped his hand to his hat brim, “There were three crates that were delivered, sir, while you were gone. I had them stored below in the hold in the aft section as you had asked.”

 “Very good, Mr.Collingwood.” Callum said, giving a slight nod, while he looked around and spotted Amos, signaling to him, the big man nodded and came over, tipping his hand to him.

 “Sir.”

 “Amos, Mr. Collingwood and Mr. Talon, and I need to speak with each other for a while. I am leaving you with the deck for the time being.”

 “Aye, sir.” Amos tipped his hand again to his Captain and then nodded, knowing what this meant and was very pleased in being given this full responsibility.

 Callum and Collingwood headed toward the small stairs that led down to the doorway to the passage below on the sloop to the galley and the aft cabins below. Callum looked in the doorway of the small galley and saw Carson making preparations for supper for him and the crew for this evening, Callum seeing the usual happy look on Carson’s face as he looked up from what he was doing.

 “May I get you something, sir?”

 “Coffee for us if you please, Carson, and pass the word for Mr. Talon to join us in my cabin.” Callum said.

 “Certainly, sir.” Carson beamed. Callum nodded and continued a few steps and opened his door, Collingwood followed him in, Callum hanging his hat on a peg on the wall and pulled off his tunic hanging it on another peg, Collingwood stood near the door waiting, his hat under his arm. Callum took the chart out of his tunic and unfolded it, turning to the table in the center of the small space and spread it out. He reached up and turned up the lamp overhead that hung from a beam, stopping the slight sway of it, and the room began to glow a bit more.

 “It’s too bad that there is no window or port in here. I wish there was time to have one cut in actually, it might help with our plan in this.”

 “And how would that be, sir?” Collingwood asked.

 “The more light in the night, it would act like a beacon to this Frenchman.”

 “I see what you mean, sir.” Collingwood said. He looked to his left as there was a knock on the door.

 “Enter.” Callum said and Talon opened the door. “Ah, there you are, Mr. Talon. Come in and we can have our talk then.” Callum smiled briefly. Talon stepped in and closed the door behind him, nodding to Collingwood, who nodded back in silence. Talon stepped in a step and Carson opened the door, bringing in coffee and setting it on the table edge as Callum slid the chart over a bit. “Thank you, Carson, that will be all.”

 “Very good, sir.” Carson said and left the room.

 “I’m sorry about the accommodations, gentlemen, this being such a small cabin and all, and scarcely anything to be had for comfort, but please, pull up that chair, Mr. Collingwood and let’s make the best of it, shall we?” Callum asked and saw them both moving, looking a bit nervous, Callum noticing it. They sat down on each side of the table, Callum standing as there was no other chair to be had. “Gentlemen, let me put you at ease somewhat. Mr. Talon, you know of my home in Birmingham, as you have been there, and you know of my manner when it comes to hospitality.”

 “Indeed, sir, I do.” Talon said.

 “Alright, that being said, I want to know and to think of this sloop as being like that once we are underway.”

 “Sir?”

 “Part of my plan, gentlemen, is to show and conduct ourselves as a merchant vessel and its crew would.” Callum said and looked back and forth at each of them for a moment, “Mr. Collingwood, those crates that were stowed below, two of them were larger than the third, is that correct?”

 “Yes, sir.” Collingwood said with a nod.

 “Once we are out to sea, gentlemen, we will not be on deck at any time while in uniform. We will maintain our command structure as we must, however, our appearance will not show that we are officers of His Majesty’s Navy.”

 “You must think we are being watched then, sir?”

 “I do.” Callum said, looking at Collingwood, “How else is it that he knows where the merchant vessels are that he attacks in the dead of night? Clearly word is being given to him somehow. I will make no attempt to let it be known that we are crewed as we are from a ship of the line.”

 “But, if we are being watched, sir,…”

 “That is where we have the advantage, I would think.” Callum said, looking back and forth at both of them, “No crew of any merchant yet attacked has come from Portsmouth.”

 “I see your point, sir.” Collingwood said.

 “Now, those crates,one of them holds the key to our success. It contains signaling rockets. They will be used to alert our support ships once we have been seen and are under attack. The other crates should contain small arms and additional muskets with shot and powder along with some clothing items to make us look the part. After we are done here, I want to make certain that everything is in the crates is correct and in order.”

 “How did you know, sir?” Talon asked.

 “A thought that I had once and spoke of it openly to someone while I was in London, before my courtmartial.” Callum said.

 “Someone at the Admiralty, sir?” Talon asked.

 “No,” Callum smiled, remembering that conversation, “someone who appreciates military strategy and is not afraid to act on it.”

 “If I may ask, sir, who is that?”

 “His Grace, The Duke of Wellington.” Callum said, and raised an eyebrow. Collingwood and Talon looked at Callum in surprise. “Now, let me go over the course we are to follow in this. I will make additional copies of this after I see the Harbor Master and secure them making the marks on them. Mr. Talon, you will take a longboat and present one of those copies to Captain Tomlin, and then make for the Triborne to present a copy to Captain Stewart and then to the Hunter and give the final one to Captain Renner, is that clear?”

 “Perfectly clear, sir.”

 “Excellent, now, look at this chart carefully,…” Callum said as he started to point out the marks and explain the course to his two officers.

 

           //////            //////            //////            //////            //////

 

 Dustin was making the final preparations to supper at the sink counter, Andrew was standing beside him, looking out at the light rain that was falling outside through the window. Dustin could feel the warmth coming from this young man that stood beside him as he rolled out dough on the board. Dustin would give him a side glance now and then, just being near him like this was almost intoxicating to Dustin, his slight scent, that warmth that he felt, just hearing him breathe gently. Dustin could not figure out what he was feeling deep down inside of himself, it was confusing to him, but yet exciting all at the same time. His mind was racing as well, his memories of last night, upstairs, the two of them, and then again this morning, was just breathtaking in what they had done together. Dustin cleared his throat, in seeing it in his own mind, needing to focus on what he was doing.

 “Something wrong?” Andrew asked as he looked away from the window and at Dustin beside him.

 “Nothing, what makes you ask that?” Dustin asked with a nervous sounding voice.

 “It just seems that possibly,…”

 “I was,….just,…thinking, that’s all.” Dustin said, not looking up from what he was doing.

 “Oh.” Andrew said in a whisper.

 “Is,…uh,…something on your mind?” Dustin asked.

 “Quite a few things actually.” Andrew said as he turned to face Dustin’s side.

 “Such as?” Dustin asked, still not looking up.

 “I was wondering if you are enjoying what we have been doing?” Andrew asked.

 “Yes, I am enjoying hearing all about what happened to Grandfather.”

 “That isn’t what I meant.” Andrew said in a whisper close to Dustin’s ear. Dustin swallowed hard, and gave Andrew a side glance.

 “I know what you meant.” Dustin whispered in reply, stopping his working on the dough, and looking up through the window with only his eyes, “I don’t know what I’m feeling right now. It is troubling to me a bit.”

 “I am confused a bit myself.”

 “How long have you known?” Dustin asked.

 “Known what?” Andrew whispered.

 “Known that you,…”

 “Prefer the comfort of another man?” Andrew asked and Dustin silently nodded, “For as long as I can remember, I suppose. I used to wonder when I was in school, seeing the others that were there, wondering.”

 “Have you ever,…?”

 “Been with another? No, you know that. You are my first.” Andrew said. Dustin looked over at him, their eyes meeting.

 “But you know so many things. I have no idea at all myself.”

 “Is it alright, the things that we have done with each other?”

 “You know it is, Andrew. I melt like wax when you do to what you do to me, you know that. I was just wondering, how do you know,…”

 “What to do,…?” Andrew asked as he smiled softly, making his eyes sparkle, Dustin nodding again, “I was told by someone, never shown, but only told. You will recall once that I told your grandfather that I listen. I listened very carefully to what I was told and remembered every word of it.”

 “Who,…who was it?”

 “A dear friend.” Andrew said in his whispered voice, coming a bit closer to Dustin, “I promised never to reveal to anyone who this person was.”

 “Oh.” Dustin said, waiting and watching as Andrew was coming slowly closer to him, moving so slowly.

 “Dustin,…” Andrew whispered.

 “Yes?” Dustin asked in a whisper.

 “I have that feeling again.”

 “I do as well.”

 “Perhaps we,…”

 “I can’t, not yet. I must,…”

 “Yes, I know.” Andrew whispered and leaned back away from Dustin, still keeping his eyes on him. The back door opened, making them pull further back from each other, neither looking to see who it was at first. The door closed, but slowly and quietly. Dustin slowly looked over his shoulder and saw Robert standing there, wet from the light rain, obviously having been out in it. Dustin frowned slightly and turned fully from the sink and went to the table and picked up a chair, bringing it back to the stove and set it near its corner next to the wood box. He picked up a couple pieces of split wood out of it and opened the firebox and put them inside, closing the door again.

 “Sit yourself, Robert, and get yourself dry. You look like one of the wet dogs.” Dustin said, pointing at the chair, “What have you been doing?”

 “I was repairing a corner of the roof of the stable, little one.” Robert said softly as he came over and sat down in the chair, looking at both of them, “What are you two about?”

 “I was getting supper ready to go into the oven. We were merely talking.” Dustin said trying to headoff any further questions.

 “I see. Is Grandfather up and about?”

 “Yes, I am.” Came the old voice from the kitchen doorway into the parlor, all eyes went in that direction, Robert turning in the chair to see, “What is wrong with the roof, Robert?”

 “Grandfather.” Robert said, “Merely that the far corner on the backside is leaking through slightly. I was trying to seal up the old shingles.”

 “Ah, I see.” The old man said as he came closer, “Perhaps we should see about a new roof then.”

 “I should think that we might just tear down the old thing. It’s not used for anything any longer.” Robert said, “Why spend the money on it?”

 “I am an old thing myself, Robert, and am not used much myself any longer, but yet, I spend money on myself from time to time. Do you think I should be torn down as well?” The old man asked with a slight look of mischief in his eye. Robert chuckled at the jest.

 “Oh Grandfather, I understand what you mean, it was merely a thought.” Robert said and then shook his head, “You are a crafty old thing, aren’t you?”

 “I suppose I am.” The old man smiled wide, “My grandfather built it when he and my grandmother settled here at the Cross. I imagine that they must have lived in it while he built the house. It would be a shame to tear it down as it belongs here, don’t you agree?”

 “I do, and you’re right of course.” Robert said, “I have a friend in town that I can see about him giving it a new roof, if you’d like?”

 “Excellent, Robert, excellent.” The old man said as he came over and put a hand on his oldest grandson’s wet shoulder. “This reminds me of the great storm, though not as windy and certainly not as rainy as then, we took up residence in the stable, my companions and I, for almost a fortnight. It was quite an experience, I dare say.” He said, smiling again.

 “I’ll see to him after the rains stop in another day or so.” Robert said and the old man nodded in answer.

 “Dustin, I am wondering, do we have enough things about for a few days, or do we need to go into the Square?”

 “I was going to go tomorrow, Grandfather, actually. There are a few things that we will need for a few more days, yes. Are you thinking that the rain will continue?”

 “No, I think it might be gone by late this evening, or even in the morning at the latest.” The old man said, Dustin nodded.

 “How is it that you know, sir?” Andrew asked.

 “There are telltale signs that you can see, if you know what to look for. I learned to read those signs when I was a boy. They teach you that at Sheflands, you know.”

 “I didn’t know that, sir. I had heard that it was possibly some kind of science, but I never gave it much thought beyond that.”

 “I wouldn’t know about it being a science, dear boy, but as a sailor, the wind and the rain can be a powerful ally or can come as a destroyer, sinking ships and taking men’s lives. I believe I told you of my own father and his fate in a storm at sea.”

 “Yes, sir, you did. It would be quite difficult to forget that, sir.”

 “There you have it then.” The old man smiled, “You learn how to read it, and it will save your life.” Andrew nodded at him, “So, when is supper? I seem to be starving to death, all of this talk of rain and wind always brings an appetite to me.” The old man said, patting Robert’s wet shoulder again and made Dustin smile.

 “I was just about to put it into the oven, Grandfather.”

 “Very good. So, less than an hour then?”

 “Yes.” Dustin smiled, the old man winked.

 “Well, in the meantime, Andrew, we can recount a bit more if you wish.”

 “Certainly, sir.” Andrew said and walked quickly to the table, taking his pencil in hand and ready at his notebook. He reread what was there, where they had stopped if the old man needed his memory jogged. Andrew looked up and saw the old man pour a bit of coffee for himself from the pot on the stove and walked slowly toward the table.

 “We finished discussing the plan, my two young officers had been amazed by what I was thinking and my younger officer, Darin Talon, now had a change in his demeanor over the entire affair, he was becoming more settled as he knew from his past experiences with me that I was confidant in it all, even though I secretly had tremendous fear about it.”

 “Excuse me, sir, but if I recall correctly, didn’t Talon become a high ranking officer at one point?”

 “Indeed he did.” The old man said as he sat down at the table, “Darin Talon would eventually become First Sea Lord for a short time, after a number of years of course, but, it was difficult for him. He lacked confidence in himself. He was always certain and resolved with the men, yes, but he always second guessed himself. He sought me out over the years after I finally left the service. We spoke many times until he retired.” The old man smiled and then chuckled loudly. Andrew gave him a puzzled look.

 “What’s amusing to you, sir?” Andrew asked.

 “What?” The old man looked up at him, “Oh, something about Talon actually. A small joke I remembered that he made. We had served so long together, and he returned home with me and Thomas for a bit. He had eyes for a friend’s relative.”

 “I don’t understand, sir.” Andrew said, shaking his head a bit and giving him a smile.

 “I have not spoken of my friend Owen Muir very much. He and his father had operated a freighting company here in Birmingham. Owen had a sister, Callista, that Darin had become infatuated with, love at first sight as it were when he was here that first time. Thomas was good enough to have him stay at Harbroughs so he could court Callista. After a short bit of time, they were married and he took her off to London to live with his family there while he continued with the service. Their first child was a boy,” The old man chuckled again with the memory, Andrew was smiling wide from seeing the happy expression on the old man’s face, being drawn in with it, “they named him after me, Quintan. Darin’s little joke, Quintan Talon rather than Quintan Callum,” The old man chuckled again, “Callum, Talon, he thought it was the funniest thing that had ever happened in his life.”

 “I see.” Andrew said, completely deadpanned now, thinking something else possibly.

 “It almost rhymes, Grandfather.” Robert said, and then laughed loudly. Dustin chuckled as well now, getting it, but Andrew just sat there. The old man laughed out loud seeing the crushed expression on the young face sitting next to him. “He must have had a good sense of humor, Grandfather.”

 “On the contrary, Robert,” the old man laughed again, “poor Darin was positively grim.” The old man laughed again for a minute and those behind him laughed as well.

 “I fail to see the humor in any of this.” Andrew said, looking back and forth between all three.The old man reached out and pat the back of the young hand.

 “It’s alright, Andrew, do not fret so. You don’t have to see it as we do. It is a rather poor joke.”

 “I suppose so, sir.” Andrew said.

 “What was I saying?” The old man asked, looking serious again.

 “Uh, you were finished discussing the plan.”

 “Quite right.” The old man, nodding his head a bit, “We went below into the hold, my officers and I,  and I summoned Sgt. McGuffin to join us as well. We lit a couple of lanterns and started to open the crates,…”

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 “Damned dark down here.” Callum said as he watched Talon struggling with a bar trying to get the first crate lid off, “I am learning more and more that the French truly must enjoy skulking about in the dark rather like rats.” Collingwood chuckled as he stood next to Callum, McGuffin cleared his throat. “Wouldn’t you agree, Sergeant?”

 “As you say, sir.” The big man said in his graveled voice. Callum chuckled as he had his back toMcGuffin, “Might I be of assistance, sir?” McGuffin asked Talon, clearly wanting to step in and rescue Talon from his toiling. Talon looked up at him and handed him the bar, McGuffin took it and Talon stepped out of the way. McGuffin stabbed the lid once and pried, the lid almost flew off. Callum chuckled and looked at Talon.

 “You must have loosened it for the Sergeant, Darin, excellent work.” Callum said and Collingwood was having great difficulty in controlling his laughter. Callum looked over at Collingwood and winked and made it even worse for him.

 “My apologies, Mr.Talon, I mean no insult to you.” Collingwood said.

 “It’s quite alright, sir, I understand completely.” Talon said to Collingwood and sighed. Callum smiled at Collingwood.

 “Here you are, sir.” McGuffin said and stepped back a step. Callum came to the edge and looked in. He could see some clothing and in between those articles of clothing were pistols, dozens of them, along with small powder kegs and bags of shot, “Sergeant, would you open the other one as well?”

 “Certainly, sir.” McGuffin said and stabbed the next crate, which was a bit longer and a bit taller, he pried and the lid flew off easily. “There you are, sir.”

 “Excellent, Sergeant, thank you.” Callum said as he stepped to the next one and looked in, muskets were lying inside, stacked on top of each other. Callum looked up at McGuffin and gave him a half smile, “It looks as if we are about to start a small war, Sergeant.”

 “I would agree, sir.”

 “Perhaps we should be thinking of a place to set up as an armory?”

 “Indeed, sir.”

 “I will leave that in your capable hands, Sergeant, if I may?”

 “It would be my pleasure, sir.”

 “Thank you.” Callum nodded and looked at Collingwood and Talon, “Gentlemen, why don’t we remove these articles of clothing and get them up on deck and see what we have to work with while the Sergeant sees to the weapons.”

 “Very good, sir.” Collingwood said and started to reach into the one crate.

 “What about the smaller one, sir?” McGuffin asked.

 “Those should be the signaling rockets, I would think. Perhaps we should check them as well.” Callum said and McGuffin went to it, opening it with a bit more care, knowing what it might be now. The lid came easily and Callum picked up one and held it up. He counted them quickly in the crate. “They seem to be all here.” Callum said and put the one back into place carefully. “Let’s make sure these are placed where they can be grabbed at a moment’s notice.”

 “Agreed, sir.” McGuffin said, “If I may, sir, I had noticed there is a small locker of sometype near the wheel.”

 “Yes, that’s a chart locker. We also call it a wheelhouse.”

 “Should we put these flares there, sir?”

 “Along with some of the small arms and powder would be a good idea, Sergeant. Outstanding.”

 “There is also a small locker further forward in the hold. I would see about that as being an armory, sir.”

 “By all means, Sergeant. I will take two pistols with me into my cabin, Mr. Collingwood, you and Mr. Talon should do the same, two pistols each. Let’s make sure they are all loaded after we set out to sea. I would hate to have to take the time to load if we were to come under attack.”

 “Agreed, sir.” McGuffin said.

 “While you are doing all this, gentlemen, I will see the Harbor Master about the other copies of the charts that I require.” Callum said, nodding to his group. He went up out of the hold and saw Amos standing near the gangplank leading to the dock and stepped up near him.

 “Sir.” Amos said as he saw Callum and tipped his hand to him, “They found two more rail guns, sir. They were just about to bring them aboard.”

 “Excellent.” Callum said, “Have them placed forward near the bow and covered for the time being. Did they say where they were complete with key anchors and rail locks?”

 “Yes, sir. They are complete, sir.”

 “Excellent, even better. Amos, I need to see the Harbor Master for a few minutes, Mr.Collingwood and Mr. Talon should be up on deck presently.”

 “Very good, sir.” Amos nodded and tipped his hand, as Callum walked through the rail and down the gangplank to the dock, looking at the rail guns as he went by them and toward the last office building in the block house. He went inside the passage door and went to the Harbor Master. At the counter, he made his request and the charts were brought to him. He looked them over and saw that enough copies of them were there and secured them to be taken and returned to the sloop and set about to make them as his original was. He was interrupted by a knock on the door.

 “Enter.” Callum said  without looking up.

 “Beg your pardon, sir.” Collingwood said, “All weapons have been secured, sir.” Callum looked up and saw pistols in Collingwood’s hands, “You said you wanted two of them, sir?”

 “Yes, thank you. Put them anywhere, I’ll secure them later.”

 “As you wish, sir.”

 “What about the clothing?” Callum asked.

 “Uh, that is another matter, sir.”

 “Oh, and why is that?” Callum asked.

 “It seems, sir, that whoever placed those in the crate and whoever they belonged to was about the size of the Sergeant or even Amos.”

 “I see.” Callum said.

 “Mr. Talon was trying one of the shirts, sir, and it looks as if it might be a useful nightshirt for him.” Collingwood said.

 “Oh, that bad, is it?” Callum asked and suppressed a laugh, picturing it in his mind, Talon’s slight build and was shorter by a head to Callum.

 “It is, sir, I’m sorry.”

 “Well,” Callum said and stood straight, “do you have any civilian clothing with you, Mr. Collingwood?”

 “Uh, no, sir, I do not.”

 “I see.” Callum said, “Do you have means of obtaining any?”

 “I do have means, sir.”

 “Perhaps, those clothes could be used for those members of the crew then that they may be able to fit, and you and Mr. Talon could check at that mercantile that Carson and I visited yesterday for the other supplies. But, time is growing short.”

 “Indeed, sir. Could I have Amos take the deck again perhaps a short bit?”

 “Yes, I don’t see why not. If he has need, I will be here working on these charts for the other Captains.”

 “Very good, sir. I’ll inform him.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand, going out the door of the cabin. Callum could only shake his head after he watched the door close.

 Callum worked the charts over that he had obtained, marking them with course layout and placement of attacked vessels and placing positions for vessels to support the sloop. Once he had completed them, he did a double check to make certain that the three new ones matched his. Satisfied they were all identical, he rolled them and placed them back on the table and waited for the return of Collingwood and Talon. Carson had come into the cabin, bringing Callum a small portion of wine.

 “Would you care for your supper now, sir?”

 “I wonder if perhaps I should wait for the return of Mr. Collingwood and Mr. Talon, Carson. Perhaps I should take the deck to spell Amos.”

 “That won’t be necessary, sir, Amos is having his supper up on deck as we speak, sir. He asked that I bring it up there to maintain his watch, sir.”

 “You don’t say. That shows me great dedication to his duty, Carson.” Callum said.

 “Indeed, sir. He is taking it very seriously, sir. He even asked for something other than his grog, sir.”

 “Carson, perhaps I should attend Amos and join him for supper up on deck as well.”

 “You think that wise, sir?”

 “Why not? Better than just sitting around in this,…cupboard.” Callum said as he looked about the cabin, “Personally, I can’t wait to be setting sail tomorrow. It is maddening just sitting here at the dock. If you wouldn’t mind, bring my supper up on deck for me.”

 “As you wish, sir.”

 “Thank you.” Callum said and went to the door. He walked up on deck, and looked around. He saw Amos jump to his feet as he was up behind the wheel at the wheelhouse. Callum smiled at him and went to join him. “Good evening, Amos.” Callum smiled, seeing him walk away from his supper and tipped his hand. Callum nodded once, “Please, don’t let me interrupt your supper. Carson is bringing mine as well. I thought I might join you, if you wouldn’t mind the company.” Callum smiled at the big man, and saw Amos was in shock over it.

 “Sir, I,…”

 “If you would rather not, I’ll go below.”

 “No, sir, it’s alright. I just didn’t think you would be up on deck, sir.”

 “Don’t give it a second thought, really.”

 “Thank you, sir.” Amos said and almost choked on what was in his mouth, “I was almost finished, sir.”

 “Please,” Callum said and held out his hand, pointing toward the plate that was on the top of the wheelhouse, “don’t let me interrupt you.” Callum looked about and then saw Carson come up on deck, carrying a small tray that had his supper. Carson went to the wheelhouse and set it out and Callum came around and up beside Carson, “Carson, again you surprise me. This smells divine, thank you.” Callum said and Carson was beaming.

 “It is the stove ,sir. I discovered the secret to it, and what with the small amount of crew to cook for, it is becoming much easier, sir.”

 “Well, let’s keep that a secret between only us, and make certain Captain Tomlin doesn’t hear of it. He might have a change of heart and steal you back and leave me with Shem.” Callum smiled.

 “I doubt that, sir, but thank you nonetheless.” Carson bowed his head slightly. Callum joined Amos and started into his supper, which surprised Callum as it tasted far better than it smelled. Callum nodded over and over again toward Carson, who was beside himself with joy. Carson went back down below leaving Callum and Amos alone.

 “Tell me, Amos, are you ready to begin this little cruise of ours?”

 “Yes, sir. All rigging has been secured and stayed, all canvas is aired and mended. We should not have any problem in that, sir.”

 “Excellent. Are the men looking forward to be going out?” Callum asked as he looked at Amos, seeing him hesitate in replying, “Amos, what of it? As my Boson, you oversee the crew, and are responsible for them. Is there some problem that they are having in this that we are about to undertake? There is nothing to hold back, I assure you. Better to know now than to find out when we’re at sea.”

 “Some of the men, only a couple are a bit,…”

 “Frightened perhaps?” Callum asked, Amos hung his head a little and only nodded, “Understandable, Amos. I would be a damned fool if I wasn't frightened a bit myself.”

 “You, sir?” Amos asked. Callum nodded a bit as he ate some more. He looked around for a moment, seeing if anyone was on deck as well, knowing there was not, but the lone Marine Sentry forward at the bow and well out of earshot.

 “Yes, me as well, Amos. I had great reservation about taking this mission, and answering the summons from Lord Hood. I had planned on retiring to a simple country life and just doing what I wanted until this came up. Does it frighten me? Any sane and rational man would be frightened, don’t you agree?” Callum asked and Amos nodded.

 “I wouldn’t have thought that of you, sir. I have seen you do so much, sir, in the time that I have served with you. You always seem to never show any fear about anything.”

 “Amos, I’ll tell you a bit of a secret.” Callum said and inched a little closer to him, “I have been afraid more times than I can count. But, I don’t let that fear take over. I cannot afford to, not and maintain my command. Do you see what I mean?”

 “Yes, sir, I do.” Amos said, seeing a different side of his Captain right now.

 “Do you remember the night that Captain Powers was killed, Amos?” Callum asked and the big man nodded, “That night he died, he looked me in the eye and gave me one simple order with his dying breath when he gave me the ship. He told me to save the ship, plain and simple, not how to save it, just do it. And I did, the only way I knew how, and that was to take those two frigates, to stop them from trying to take the ship, our ship. Luckily for us it worked, my plan. But, my plan was brought on by the fear that I had, the fear that we were going to die, and die because of my fear to do something. Does that make sense to you, Amos?” Callum asked and he nodded his head slowly, “So, I can understand some of them being afraid, I share it with them, but I will not let it take over. I will turn that fear and use it to drive me on to see this through. Can you understand that as well?” Callum asked and Amos smiled and nodded his head.

 “Yes, sir, I can understand that.”

 “Good. Now, before we set sail in the morning, I want you to gather the crew together. I will speak to them about this as well and try and ease their fear. It’s better to face the fear of the unknown than to hide back in the supposed safety of your own bed and still be afraid.”

 “I do understand, sir.” Amos said and looked at Callum.

 “You’re a brave man, Amos, and I count myself as being very fortunate to have you with me in this.”

 “Thank you, sir, but I think that we are the fortunate ones, sir, to have you leading us.”

 “Most kind of you to say that, Amos.” Callum smiled.

 “It’s from the heart, sir, and I speak for all of us in that.” Amos said and Callum was deeply touched by what he said and knew that he meant it. He also knew that his men were loyal and were even more than that. Callum reached up a hand and put it to Amos’ thick muscled shoulder. He caught movement on the dock and turned his head seeing Collingwood and Talon walking up the dock toward the sloop. They came up the gangplank, Collingwood first, each carrying a bundle in their arms and they both saw Callum and came toward he and Amos.

 “Sir, I’m sorry if it may have taken too long.”

 “It’s quite alright, Mr. Collingwood, Amos and I were just having a bit of supper and catching up. I see that you two were successful.”

 “Indeed, sir.” Collingwood said and then looked at Talon for a moment and then back at Callum, “We’ll just take these below and leave them. I’ll come back and take the deck for you, sir.”

 “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Collingwood, I can remain here, after Mr. Talon and I take care of the charts. Mr. Talon, I will need you to take the charts to our respective support ships as I said earlier.”

 “Aye, sir.”

 “Meet me in my cabin when you deposit your bundles.” Callum said and nodded to Talon. Talon returned the nod and went to the steps that led below, Collingwood followed, “Amos, I won’t be but a minute.”

 “As you say, sir.” Amos nodded and then Callum turned and followed his officers below.

 Callum went to the cabin and opened the door, leaving it open and wide. He went to the table and picked up the rolled charts and turned, seeing Talon standing outside the doorway. Callum stepped toward him and handed him the three rolls and gave him a brief smile.

 “Make certain that they are placed in the hands of each of Captain.”

 “Aye, sir.” Talon said as he took them from Callum.

 “There is a boat crew standing by at the steps aft from Dover. Darin, you might find it a bit difficult with Captain Renner due to the late hour of the afternoon.” Callum said, Talon gave him a puzzled look, “He may be already,…enjoying a bit of revelry and it may have gotten a bit out of hand. Be cautious.” Callum said with a raised finger and eyebrow. Talon understood by the look on his face.

 “I understand, sir.”

 “Return here in short order. I will be on deck.”

 “Aye, aye, sir.” Talon nodded and went toward the steps beyond the galley. Callum looked around the cabin a moment and then followed him up, coming up on deck, seeing two men standing there that were not members of the crew, talking with Amos. Talon looked at them for a moment as he went to the gangplank and then down to the dock. Callum came toward these two men and Amos. Amos tipped his hand toward Callum.

 “What is this about, Amos?”

 “They are from the Dock Master, sir. They are shipwrights, sir. They have something to install for us that just arrived.”

 “Oh?” Callum asked as he stepped up beside Amos and looked at the cloth that hid from sight what they both carried, “And what is this all about then?” Callum asked the two men. They both nodded toward him, seeing him in his uniform but without his hat.

 “I’m sorry, sir, but this just arrived. We were told to bring it aboard and put it in for you, sir.” The older of the two men said as he pulled the cloth off. Callum smiled seeing it. The sloop would soon be complete and with it in place, it was a sign of good fortune. The bell and its mountings that surrounded it were brilliant and new, glinting that polished brass color in the late afternoon sun. Callum looked over at Amos for a moment and then back at the bell and then clasped his hands behind his back as he read the name that was cast into it. WINDSONG.

 “By all means, gentlemen, please carry on.” Callum said and the two set to work. They went to the railing that was before the wheel and began to set about with brace and bit to make holes for the mount. Callum watched them for a moment and then looked at Amos. “You know what this means, do you not, Amos?”

 “No, sir, I’m sorry.”

 “Have you ever been to a christening?”

 “Once, sir, for a family member.”

 “Well, it would not be as formal, I assure you. Once they are done and Mr. Talon returns, assemble all hands and the Marines on deck. We will have ourselves a christening.”

 “Very good, sir. But, if I may ask, sir, the name, it surely must be for something else wouldn’t you think?” Amos asked. Callum smiled.

 “You were thinking something a bit more along the fearsome side, like Avenger, or Cutlass, or something like that?” Callum chuckled, seeing Amos nod, “Remember, this is not a ship of the line by any means, we’re supposed to be a merchant freighter.”

 “I understand, sir.” Amos conceded.

 “Nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s a good name, and I’m more than sure that she will live up to it. She has a luff lines and good sturdy bow and is probably very fast if handled correctly. Who knows, we might get a chance to see how fast she really is.”

 “I hope so, sir. Don’t forget your supper there, sir.”

 “Oh, quite right.” Callum said looking at the plates on the wheelhouse, “Carson might take great insult if I don’t finish it.”

 “That he would, sir.” Amos said and Callum chuckled and went over to the wheelhouse and picked up his plate and started back on it, even though it was cold. He watched the two men work on the bell as they dowel pinned it securely to the low railing above the steps that led below. Callum looked forward and saw McGuffin come up out of the hold and eyed his Sentry that was near the bow. He looked aft and saw Callum there, Amos nearby and headed toward them. McGuffin watched the two men working on the bell and its housing as he came closer to Callum and then gave him a salute, Callum returned it loosely.

 “Evening, sir.”

 “Evening, Sergeant. Stretching your legs?”

 “In a manner of speaking, sir, giving my lads a bit of quiet time as it were. They have difficulty with me standing over their shoulders.”

 “I think I can understand that.” Callum said as he finished the plate and set it down, “I understand that all the weapons have been secured.”

 “Indeed, sir. That locker that I spoke of in the hold seems to be more than adequate.”

 “Excellent, another bit of good news.” Callum smiled, “We will be having a bit of a ceremony when my officer returns from his current detail. I invite you and your men to join us, if you would.”

 “It would be our pleasure, sir.”

 “We will be christening our new vessel.” Callum smiled, “A bit of naval tradition.”

 “I understand, sir.” McGuffin nodded once, “My father served in the Royal Navy.”

 “I didn’t know that.” Callum said.

 “An able bodied seaman.”

 “And you joined the Royal Marines.”

 “Yes, sir.”

 “Surely you must be a sailor at heart, Sergeant?” Callum asked, teasing McGuffin a bit, and the large man realized it.

 “The lack of discipline in the ranks did not appeal to me, sir. I much prefer order than scrambling about to go up the rigging while under fire, sir.” McGuffin countered with his usual straight face. Callum saw it and then chuckled.

 “I can understand your point, Sergeant.” Callum said gave him a slight nod. He finished his plate as Carson came back up and into view, bringing coffee and setting it down for Callum, “Join me in having some coffee, Sergeant?”

 “I would be honored, sir.”

 “Excellent.”

 “I’ll be back in a moment, sir.” Carson said as he picked up the plates and went back below.

 “He seems to know beforehand, sir.”

 “Yes, he always does,  doesn’t he? Carson has always been that way. It took a while to get used to it, but I think we understand each other a bit better now.” Callum smiled at McGuffin, “Are you married, Sergeant?”

 “I am, sir.”

 “It shows. Your wife must be the same as Carson, knowing what you need beforehand as well.” Callum said as he lifted his cup.

 “She tries, sir, to be sure.” McGuffin said as Carson came back up on deck and to where they were.

 “Here you are, Sergeant.” Carson said then looked at Callum, “Do you need anything else, sir?”

 “No, I think we’re fine for now, Carson, thank you.” Callum said and Carson nodded in answer, turning and going below.

 The shipwrights were done with the bell and one of them pulled out the bell’s rope out of his pocket and attached it. They both looked at Callum and nodded. Callum smiled and nodded back to them in a silent thank you. They gathered their things and went to the gangplank and down to the dock. Callum got up and went over to the bell and looked it over, admiring it a bit, and looked at McGuffin.

 “As good as a new musket, don’t you think, Sergeant?”

 “Not as useful, sir, but close.” McGuffin said and flexed his big whiskers, Callum knowing that he smiled briefly, Callum chuckled. He turned and looked forward, seeing a few of the hands on deck now, looking about, and then Collingwood emerged.

 “Did you have your supper, Mr. Collingwood?”

 “Yes, sir, thank you.”

 “Excellent. Now, all we seem to be missing is our Mr. Talon.” Callum said and looked aft over the stern end, seeing a longboat coming toward the steps. Callum smiled briefly as the oars of the longboat were shipped and it pulled up to the steps that led up from the water. Talon got out of the longboat and spoke to the Coxswain. The boat was pushed off and oars went into the water and started to row toward Dover. Talon came along the dock and came up the gangplank, tipping his hand aft, as was custom. He headed toward Callum and stopped close to him, tipping his hand.

 “The charts were delivered, sir. Captain Tomlin sends his respects and his thanks, sir. Captain Stewart was very receptive and sends his respects as well.” Talon said.

 “Excellent. And what of Captain Renner, did you see him?” Callum asked.

 “I beg to report that Captain Renner was unavailable, sir. His 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Gerhardt took the chart and assured me that Captain Renner would be receivingit as soon as possible, sir.”

 “I see. You did your best, Darin, I appreciate that.”

 “Thank you, sir.” Callum said, his chest tightened a bit over Captain Renner and his condition, bringing more apprehension to Callum now, “Well, let us carry on then. Mr.Collingwood, assemble all hands, Sergeant, would be so kind as to have your men join us as well?”

 “Very good, sir.” McGuffin said and snapped a salute, then proceeded toward the hold.

 “All hands on deck!” Collingwood called loudly. Callum turned and looked at Talon.

 “This won’t take but a few minutes, Darin, then you can go below and have your supper.” Callum said as he leaned close to Talon.

 “Thank you, sir.” Talon said, standing at a bit of attention. The hands came up and out on deck, they gathered toward the three officers, Callum now in the center of the three. He waited until the Marines were up and out of the hold as well, and formed into ranks. McGuffin stood in front of his men at attention.

 “All hands assembled, sir.”

 “Thank you, Mr.Collingwood. Men, I wanted to share a bit of good fortune with you all. As you know, this vessel that we are assembled in was a captured French sloop. As such, this vessel has lacked a bit and over her time, she has suffered from that mistreatment, until recently. It is to her good fortune that you men have labored to bring her and give her what she been without for so long. The care and attention that you have all shown her, the deep appreciation that sailors share with their vessels have made this lady a sound and sturdy vessel once again, and I for one am proud to stand on her decks, as I am sure that you are as well. My good friend, Dr. Crawford came aboard yesterday to greet myself and Captain Tomlin. The good Doctor teased me a bit about this lady of ours, and referred to her as a barge. I dare say and I would challenge the good Doctor to say that again, with her in the condition that you have brought her to, one of pride, and of caring, and yes, even possibly love.

 “This vessel that we have simply referred to as the sloop, shall be known as that no longer. We have been given the last piece that breathes life into her, and that is twofold, one, we were missing a key piece and that has been presented and installed for us and this lady,” Callum said and stepped a step out of the way and held up a hand, “our new ship’s bell, and as you know, ship’s bells are cast with the  name that belongs to that vessel, that name cast into the bronze is hers and hers alone, that name is Windsong.

 We are gathered her to honor her and her new name, and in that, we ask her to carry us safely to ensure our safe passage, to bring to a successful end to this mission, and then to carry us home again to rejoin our friends and families that we leave behind. As her name suggests, may she sing with the wind to speed us there and to speed us home.” Callum said, looking about at all of his men, “Mr. Collingwood, would you do the honors, please?”

 “Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said, snapping to attention, turning and going to the new bell, his hand took the bell rope and pulled twice in succession, then again, then again. “Three bells, sir.”

 “Three bells. The signal for a watch to commence,” Callum said, as he continued to look out into his men, “It is her watch now, her time to watch over us now begins.” Callum said and then pausedfor a moment, “Mr. Collingwood, dismiss the hands.”

 “Hands dismissed!” Collingwood said, but not a shout over this solemn proceeding. The crew broke up but were all smiles and nodded toward the new bell and what it meant to them all. Collingwood came up next to Callum and stood next to him, “Nicely done, sir.”

 “Thank you, Mr. Collingwood,” Callum sighed, “You would think I was addressing Parliament.” Callum gave Collingwood a sideglance and Collinwood chuckled a bit. McGuffin had dismissed his men as well, some of them lingered about on deck, but McGuffin stepped forward and saluted, “Sergeant.”

 “Sir, may I say, sir, very stirring.”

 “Thank you, Sergeant, high praise indeed.” Callum nodded toward him, McGuffin saluted again and turned on his heel and walked toward his men, speaking to them a bit and then went below. “Mr. Talon, see to the watch, same as last night.”

 “Aye, sir.”

 “After we are sea, we will be going to strictly two watches, gentlemen. At night, I want only four hands on deck with one Sentry. The lookout is to be kept both fore and aft at all times. If and when it comes to it, I want all hands to be on deck within a matter of a few moments, all accesses and hatches are to kept clear so there are no hazards, Mr. Collingwood, you will take the wheelhouse and see to the flares, if something is to happen to you, then it will fall to me, Mr. Talon, you will take position with the rail guns to repel boarders until help arrives with the support ships. Sergeant McGuffin and his Marines will take up defensive positions at the rails, all hands are to be armed and readied once they reach the decks. We are few in number, gentlemen, but we will be fierce. Her crew will be possibly eight hundred or more, I have no doubt, but we will not give up, and we will see this through, do I make myself clear?” Callum asked.

 “Very clear, sir.” Collingwood said.

 “Yes, sir.” Talon said.

 “Good. Darin, you can go below and have your supper, Mr. Collingwood, you can take the deck. I’ll be below.” Callum said.

 “Aye, sir.” They both said, watching Callum walk toward the hold and then out of sight as he went down the gangway stairs.

 Once in the hold, Callum went along the  centerline of the deck and came to where the crew were berthed. Most were organizing their things by lamplight. One of the younger members of the crew, Hawkins, saw Callum and gasped slightly. Callum knew him, and had sailed with him for about three years or a little more, Callum appreciated his young good looks, the way he carried himself and knew that he was well liked by the rest of the crew, not just here but onboard Dover. Hawkins tipped his hand to Callum.

 “Didn’t mean to give you a start.” Callum gave him a half smile.

 “It’s alright, sir.” Hawkins said in his soft voice, the rest of the crew turned and saw Callum there, all tipping their hands to him.

 “Good evening, gentlemen. I was just going around doing an inspection before we set sail in the morning. Is everything alright down here?”

 “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Dorfman spoke up,one of the older crewman, who was very experienced, and Callum respected him very much for his knowledge and had watched Dorfman for years and had learned much from him.

 “Good, is there anything that you men need before we set sail?”

 “No, sir, thank you, and we appreciate what you’ve done so far, sir.” Dorfman said.

 “Nonsense, it is I that appreciates what all of you have done. Which brings me to another point,” Callum said as he slipped out of his tunic and looked at Hawkins and his haversack he was standing next to, “may I?” Callum asked Hawkins, wanting to lay his tunic on the young mans bed.

 “Yes, of course, please, sir.” Hawkins said, Callum lay the tunic down and smiled at Hawkins.

 “Thank you.” Callum said, looking around and seeing a small box and pulled it over and sat on it in the middle of them, “AsI was saying, I had wanted to discuss another point. Why don’t we sit and have a talk for a few minutes, I mean before I continue on with my inspection, of course.” Callum said and they all looked horrified, a Captain, their Captain wanted to sit and have a talk with them, it had never been done before. Dorfman quickly set them to it and they all became comfortable around their Captain. “Now, understand this all of you, I know that this is never done, and I also want you to know there are no ranks right at this moment. We are just going to have a normal chat for a couple of minutes. Alright?” Callum asked and they all slowly started to nod, “Good.” Callum said and folded his arms over his chest.

 “Sir, some of us were wondering, sir, about last night with Dr. Crawford. Are you alright, sir?” Hawkins asked softly.

 “Yes, I am, thank you for asking.”

 “We heard you crying out, the other officers didn’t say much,…”

 “Hawkins,…” Dorfman said with clenched teeth in warning and giving him bugged eyes.

 “No, it’s alright, Dorfman.” Callum said holding up a hand, “a legitimate concern, and I am touched by it, thank you, Hawkins.” Callum cleared his throat, “I had an incident while I was at home and had to be sewn up again. Dr. Crawford was seeing to that knitting and trying to remove them. They were long overdue from being pulled, and it hurt,” Callum said as he shook his head, “hurt worse than when it actually happened.” Callum chuckled and most of them smiled, “But everything is alright. I’m right as rain. My concern is with this mission and with all of you. As I said when I called for volunteers, I know each of you is a good fighter, and will do your duty without question, of that I have no doubt, but I understand that a few of you are having concerns about this now. I want you to be able to tell me your concerns before we set sail in the morning. Remember what I said, if any one of you wishes to back out of this, nothing will be said.”

 “Some of them, sir,” Dorfman said, shifting his eyes about between all of them, “they heard about the sloop with Lt. Eddington, about them all being killed and all, sir.”

 “And you are wondering if that is going to happen to us. I can see that.” Callum said and paused a moment and then cleared his throat again, “I cannot divulge too much about that, you can understand that I’m sure, but what I can tell you is, the sailing that the sloop undertook was handled incorrectly, and that was what led to their fate, and not Eddington’s fault. My plan is different, as I have studied this very carefully. Understand that who we seek is quite mad. I believe that I have found a pattern in his madness. We can use that to our advantage. I’m not saying that this will not be dangerous, quite the opposite in fact. He knows we’re hunting him, he knows we’re going to try and bait, even if he is mad, he’s not stupid.”

 “Who is he, sir?” Hawkins asked as he kneltbeside Callum.

 “He is a deposed Admiral of King Louis, as the Avion was the flagship of the French fleet under Louis’ reign. I have no doubt that this Frenchman is trying to seek favor with Napoleon, and therefore is doing what he is doing to the merchant vessels that he encounters. That being said, we will pursue this plan to bait him and lure him in, even though he knows that we are doing it, and he will think in his madness that he will be once again victorious. But this time, there is a difference, and that is all of you. It is because of you, all of you, volunteering and knowing what we are facing that will make us successful. Your resolve in the face of this will ensure his defeat, whether it being him captured or destroyed. I will tell you this, if, and I say if, we capture him and return to England with him, he will be hung as a murderer would be but, only after being sentenced by The Lord High Chancellor himself. It is imperative that we succeed in this, not only to save the lives of other seamen, but to save England itself as he is beginning to put fear into merchant shipping and stopping from sailing. Soon we will not have supplies for anything, our economy will fail, and Napoleon will sail across The Channel unopposed.”

 “How do they know who he is, sir?” Hawkins asked.

 “On more than one of the attacked vessels, there has been found, his pennant, his personal signature as it were, all French Admirals have them, as I know that you are aware of that.” Callum said as he looked at Hawkins, who nodded in answer.

 “We’re with you, sir, have no fear of that, each and every one of us.” Bateman said, a younger man, Callum knew him to be a good topman, popular with the crew, and an excellent shot with a pistol as well. Callum gave him a nod and a brief smile.

 “Given the size of our crew aboard, and even with our compliment of Marines, we will be outnumbered more than twenty to one, but, I know that after what we all did at La Rochelle, I know for a fact that we can hold our own, I’d stake my life on it, and I think I am.” Callum smiled and some of them chuckled a bit. Callum got up off the box, “But seriously, I will do everything that I can to see to it that we return home safely.” Callum said, and all of them tipped their hands toward him, “Now, before I step back into uniform and being the Captain again, are there any other questions?” He looked around and all of them slowly shook their heads no, “Excellent. We sail with the morning tide then.” Callum said and picked up his tunic and slipped it on.

 “Thank you, sir.” Dorfman said as he stood up close to Callum, tipping his hand again. Callum smiled and put a hand to the upper arm of the older man. Callum looked around at all of them and nodded once, he walked away from them all and they watched him, standing close to one another as Callum looked about at the aft section of the hold and then went up the access ladder to the cabin section. 

 

 The wind was good as it blew on his back. Callum stood at the aft rail, looking forward, the hands were about checking stays and ties of the rigging. He could feel the swell of the tide, making Windsong rock slightly side to side this morning as she was tied to the dock. He clasped his hands together behind his back and looked up, seeing the Mizzen rise up before him, the sway was bringing the light clouds that were drifting by high overhead be pointed at from edge to edge of their white puffiness by the tip point of the mast. Callum smiled at it, seeing it do this, remembering for a moment how dizzy that made him as a boy when he came aboard Dover as a very young Midshipman. Since that time, he had gotten used to it. He lowered his head as Collingwood was coming toward him.

 “Morning, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand to his hat.

 “Morning, Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said and looked toward the Main Mast and ran his eyes upward, up the length of it, seeing the same thing as with the Mizzen, the tip pointing at the passing clouds. The Main Mast which sat forward a bit in the deck, more forward than it would in a three mast vessel, seemed sturdier than the Main of Dover, albeit shorter in length, the girth was larger in diameter.

 “A good wind this morning, sir.”

 “Indeed.” Callum said, “Take her out, Mr.Collingwood.”

 “Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand, stepping toward the rail, “Amos, take the wheel! All hands on deck!”

 “Aye, sir.” The big man said, tipping his hand and coming toward them.

 “Secure the gangplank!” Collingwood called out loudly, “Standby to cast off lines!” He watched as men from the dock started to pull the gangplank away from the side, dragging it back, clearing the gunwale of the side rail. They waved that is was clear. Collingwood nodded to them, “Cast off the mooring lines! Hands aloft!” Other men on the dock moved and lifted the mooring lines from the stays on the dock. “Set the Headsails! Run out the Driver!” Collingwood shouted and men moved quickly, some going up the rigging on both sides, two others, Hawkins and Capshaw came quickly by Collingwood and Callum and ran out the angled sail off the Mizzen, pulling on ropes through blocks making the sail extend and then the driver arm was swung to catch the wind, Callum ducking a bit so as not to have his hat be hit, “Amos, port your helm.” Collingwood said.

 “Aye, sir.” Amos spun the wheel a few turns and Callum looked over the starboard side seeing the dock starting to move away from Windsong. He smiled to himself and looked port, seeing Dover across the harbor, starting to come alive herself, men moving about on her decks, but no canvas as of yet. Callum knew that Captain Tomlin was going to wait and let them proceed out of Portsmouth first before they got underway themselves.

 Collingwood was gauging their progress and could see another ship lining up on their bow point now, HMS Cumberland. Collingwood waited and watched for another minute as the porting brought the bow point away from the Cumberland.

 “Ease your helm.” Collingwood said.

 “Aye, sir.” Amos said and eased the wheel back a bit. Collingwood did not see any activity on the Cumberland, she looked as though she were abandoned as they slowly sailed closer and then started to glide by her. He looked forward again, seeing the open sea and the slight breaking in deeper water that was ahead. They could all feel the difference now under partial sail, the bow slightly dipping, as the water was becoming even deeper under them now. Callum walked up and took position near to Amos at the wheel on the port side of the Mizzen. Callum looked up at the Main, seeing the wind increasing now in the canvas of the Headsail.

 “Set and make all plain sail!” Collingwood called out loudly as he looked aloft himself. The men aloft worked the ties of the canvas and cut loose the Mainsail, letting it open below them, the moment that they all waited for was now here as the canvas snapped and the wind took hold, the deck lurched a bit forward and moaned softly with strain on the Main Mast. They all felt it, and all of them wanted to try this vessel out and see what she could do after all of their hard work on her. All of them were smiling and some aloft were bumping elbows and pointed forward toward the open sea.

 “Course, sir?” Collingwood asked as he was watching forward.

 “East southeast, Mr. Collingwood, bring us into The Channel. Let the wind take her.” Callum said.

 “Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said, “Amos, bring us three points to port, make your course easterly.”

 “Aye, sir, three points.”

 “The deck is yours, Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said.

 “Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and went to the steps to go below. Callum proceeded past the galley and to his cabin and opened the door, stepping inside, he tossed his hat on the haversack and slipped off his tunic, folding it carefully and went to his trunk, opening the lid and placed it inside and closed the lid. He unbuttoned his vest and hung it up on a peg and walked out of the cabin and went by the galley, Carson smiled wide seeing Callum in his shirt only and long navy blue pants and shook his head. Callum came up on deck and went to the wheel.

 “Amos, I’ll take over, it that’s alright.” Callum said and Amos smiled and tipped his hand, letting Callum step in as he clasped his hands on the wheel. Amos stood there for a moment, Collingwood was wide eyed for a minute and then composed himself. “I think it might be time for you to change as well, Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said and smiled as his tail was blown over his shoulder.

 “As you say, sir.”

 “Have Mr. Talon dress down as well while you’re at it.”

 “Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand as he went toward the stairs going to his cabin.

 Callum was enjoying himself fully being at the wheel, only rarely did he do this aboard Dover, but here, now, this was different and he loved it. The wind was settling into the canvas, making it furl fully. He looked aloft seeing the hands securing ties as they moved along the footlines. He lowered his gaze and looked toward the bow, some of the Marines were on deck, McGuffin coming toward him.

 “Sergeant, I seem to have neglected in telling you about your men and their state of dress. It might be a good idea to have them remove their jackets if they wish to be on deck.” Callum said, McGuffin was hesitant, “You included, Sergeant, of course. We must keep up appearances you know.”

 “As you say, sir.” McGuffin said, giving a loose salute and then walking away. Callum looked behind seeing Hawkins and Capshaw there, securing the Driver.

 “Hawkins, keep a lookout aft if you will while you’re there. Call out if you see anything.”

 “Aye, sir.” Hawkins said, looking at his Captain, and it was the way he looked that was completely different to him. He had no idea that Callum was so trim and muscular as it was always hidden under his long tunic and under his hat. He was very striking to Hawkins, and he only snapped out of it when Capshaw bumped him with an elbow. Hawkins cleared his throat and looked aft while he worked with his shipmate.

 Collingwood came up on deck followed by Talon. Callum had to purse his lips a bit to keep from chuckling. Both of his young officers looked more like schoolboys now in civilian clothing rather than officers of the Royal Navy. Collingwood came up near Callum, and Callum couldn’t help but look him over.

 “It looks like money well spent, Mr.Collingwood.”

 “Thank you, sir.” Collingwood said and then cleared his throat.

 “Don’t worry too much about it, Abel,” Callum said softly as leaned close to his fretting officer, “you’ll get used to it in due time.”

 “I suppose you’re right, sir.”

 “However, our young Mr. Talon is another story entirely.” Callum said, and Talon looked over hearing his name, “I’m almost positive that Darin sleeps in his uniform even when he is at home in London.” Callum said and chuckled a bit, Collingwood lowered his head and looked away from Talon. Talon was open mouthed at hearing it.

 “Sir,…” Talon said.

 “Merely teasing, Mr. Talon. You will need to grow a thinker skin, and rather quickly before this is done, I’m certain.” Callum said and just looked at Talon. Talon huffed a bit and looked forward. Callum and Collingwood chuckled a bit more seeing his expression. “Care to give her a try, Mr. Collingwood?” Callum asked.

 “I would be delighted, sir, thank you.” Collingwood said and stepped closer to Callum.

 “Make sure you plant your feet firmly and get a firm grip. She wants to roll larboard.” Callum said as he stepped away little by little, letting Collingwood take the wheel.

 “I see what you mean, sir.”

 “Sail, sir.” Hawkins called. Callum opened the wheelhouse door and pulled a glass, extending it and put to his eye.

 “Ah, Captain Tomlin is going to try and catch us. They just cleared the break point.” Callum said and looked at his officers, “Mr. Collingwood, give me another point to port, Hawkins, Capshaw, throw theSpanker over to starboard.” Callum said and nodded, he turned back and looked at Collingwood, “Abel, when they throw it over, the wheel will jerk very hard, be ready for it.” 

 “Aye, sir.”

 “Alright, gentlemen, let’s have a little fun with Captain Tomlin, shall we? At this rate, he will catch us before we sight Brighton.” Callum said as the Driver was shifted and Windsong listed slightly over to starboard, taking the wind, “Amos!” Callum called out on the deck, “Set the jibs!”

 “Aye, sir.” Amos called back and gave a wave, he turned and cupped his hands calling for the jibs to be run out. Hands jumped to it and knew what their Captain wanted.

 “Alright, gentlemen, let’s see what she can do.” Callum said and looked aft again, lifting the glass to his eye, “Damn, he’s seen us and is putting on more canvas.” Callum said and handed the glass to Talon as he was standing next to Callum now, Callum turned and looked forward again, gauging the distant coast and stepped close to Collingwood, getting close to his ear, “There is a current that underlies, do you know what I mean?”

 “Yes, sir, the wash current that sweeps toward The North Sea. All ships avoid it.” Collingwood said as he turned and saw Callum’s face was right there.

 “Exactly, because any ship with a deep draft will lose steerage and control.”

 “But we have a very shallow draft, sir.” Collingwood said and Callum just stared at him and flashed his eyes. Realization set in for Collingwood, “It will sweep us along faster, brilliant, sir.”

 “Now, bring us into it gradually, not too much at a time, you’ll feel it.”

 “Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and ported the wheel another point as he looked forward again. 

 “They’ll be on us in less than an hour, sir.” Talon said as he lowered the glass, looking at Callum.

 “If this works, it might be two.” Callum smiled wide and put a hand on Talon’s shoulder. He pat him once, and then looked forward as the deck shifted slightly again, the Jib and the Flying Jib had been set. She was taking the wind more now and the list to starboard increased slightly. Callum smiled wider as he looked aloft, canvas was tight, lines were taut and Windsong was living up to her name in the blink of an eye. He leaned close to Collingwood, “You feel it now, the groundswell in the deck?”

 “I’m starting to, sir, I see what you mean, she’s beginning to fight against it.”

 “Darin, come and lend a hand on the wheel, take the port side and help steady her.” Callum said, and Talon came over and grabbed on as well, easing the grip a bit for Collingwood, “Good, I’m going forward, I’ll be back in a minute. Hawkins, keep a weather eye on Captain Tomlin if you will.”

 “Aye, sir.” Hawkins said and tipped his hand as he took the glass that Callum handed him. Callum turned and went forward, smiling to himself and reached Amos.

 “We seem to making a good run of it, sir.”

 “It’s more than that, Amos, that’s why I took the wheel from you. If you notice what is going on there over my shoulder.” Callum said, Amos looked at the wheel seeing the intense look of concentration that the officers had in what they were doing. “A small lesson in shiphandling.”

 “I see, sir.”

 “You or I, even Dorfman could handle her with what we’re doing, but I think they should get a feel for her as well.”

 “I see, sir.” Amos said and was slightly concerned, “They might sleep very good tonight, sir, because of this.” Callum chuckled at hearing him.

 “You are very correct in that, Amos.” Callum said, looking forward at the Jibs, “How much more canvas is there?”

 “We have a spare main and an extra Headsail,sir.”

 “Very good. Once we clear the Dover shoals, we’ll ease her up a bit and then start our course.”

 “Aye, sir. Do you wish them to stay at the wheel that long, sir? Begging your pardon for saying it, but, I’m not sure they’ll last that long.” Amos said and Callum laughed.

 “I’ll spell them if needed. Right now, I want to see the Sergeant.”

 “As you say, sir.” Amos said as Callum walked toward the hold. Amos watched the young officers and their clenched faces as they maintained their grip on the wheel, smiling only to himself, knowing that their Captain was right in this hands on training he was giving them. 

 

icevuk2634

[email protected]

Top


Rate Story Choose rating between 1 (worst) and 10 (best).

Bookmark and Share

blog comments powered by Disqus